Monday, November 21, 2011

The dim ages

I used to think that science education would make people more rational and scientific. Now, in the fullness of age and experience, I can see that all it has done is to offer new arenas for people to apply the same magical thinking, self-serving illogic, and rhetorical fallacies that used to drive the ancient Greek philosophers to despair over the human race, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two cheers (again) for hypocrisy

You'd think, given the Catholic Church's problems, that Archbishop Timothy Nolan of New York might have chosen a slightly different metaphor when he complained the other day about those sinister (and "well-oiled") forces in American politics that, he said, are seeking to "neuter" religion. You also had to wonder what he was thinking when he commiserated with Penn State in its recent travails (“We know what you’re going through, and you can count on our prayers”), and explained that this just goes to show that sexual abuse of children is one of those things that could happen to anyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lessons from Wossamotta U.

In one of my favorite Bullwinkle episodes — mind you, this goes back nearly half a century, which reminds us that there is nothing new whatever in the absurdities of college football — the trustees of Wossamotta U. are told the college has only enough money to keep the football team or the professors. "Which should we get rid of, gentlemen?" the president asks. "The professors!" yell the trustees, in chorus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thank god all politics isn't local

Among the wonderful legacies of segregation days here in the Old South is Virginia's peculiar election schedule, which has us voting for state and local candidates the year before the quadrennial presidential elections.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ask the ethicist

Excerpted from a recent online discussion . . .

Dear Ethicist:

I'm a vice president of a major university and one of my top football coaches was recently caught buggering 10-year-old boys in the shower. Should I (a) report it to the university police (who I'm in charge of) or (b) conduct my own "investigation," and just tell the coach he's not allowed to use university property for buggering 10-year-old boys any more? I know that (a) is what the law requires, but it seems to me that (b) would be much simpler, and would avoid the embarrassment of having to find out the names of the victims or speak to their families. Also, isn't requiring the coach to find some other place to carry on his child molestation activity punishment enough? This is one of those difficult ethical dilemmas that I know always stump even the greatest philosophers and thinkers. What would you do in my situation?


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Martyrs to the S corporation

It's a safe bet that no one of ample means has ever doubted they fully deserved every penny of their income. In fact, it's a rule of human nature that the less one is responsible for one's enviable qualities, the prouder one is of them (beauty, distinguished ancestry, innate athletic or mental gifts). All of those upper class twits in Jane Austen novels whose incomes are fixed by nothing but the accident of birth that determined how much land they inherited are absolutely convinced that the size of a man's income is directly proportional to his virtue and merit on earth.